Dad, What example should I follow?

(A short message on the significant example a parent portrays to their child when the parent disagrees with the child’s baseball coach)

Baseball is front and centre of both my son’s life and mine. Baseball and schoolwork (and how he speaks to his mum) are some of the reasons for most of our father-son rifts at home. I hope some of you can relate to this and I’m not leaving myself hanging out there on a limb.

When my son gets angry with me I realise he is now imitating the way I express my anger. I witness the same stubbornness, forcefulness, and tone of voice that has been with me for years. In fact, it scares me at times when I reflect that I sometimes sound like my own father when I lose my temper.

Where am I going with all of this you may ask? And what’s this have to do with my opinions about the coach?

Our kids learn more from our example than we think. And some of the examples I see from myself and other parents around the baseball diamonds are a real eye opener to what we’re passing onto them.

And don’t let us fool ourselves, they are watching and hearing everything, whether on a conscious or subconscious level.

They see our actions and hear our comments when we stand on the sidelines. They hear it on the drive home after the game. They hear the snide and critical remarks in the privacy of our homes. They soak up the threats and frustrations that show this is more than a game to us and we’re taking it a lot more personally than they are.

And where are these comments primarily aimed at? The biggest gripe parents have is towards the child’s current coach.

Generally, everything is fine with us if our child is fielding in his or her chosen position. Everything is fine when our kid is hitting the ball and getting on base. And everything is all dandy when our kid is on the field on a regular basis.

A side note here: everything changes when your son or daughter makes it to representative level baseball. You may perceive your child to be of a certain standard and where they sit in the pecking order. The coaches have been chosen to win the game at hand.  They put what they perceive is a winning formula on the park. Your child may or may not be a big part of that formula. This is a hard one for our egos to handle. And we all take it personally at times. Our kids are no longer under our protection when being coached by another and we feel it is our right to interject. We cry out for fairness and proclaim to any other suffering comrade within earshot how the team should be managed.

Ok, I digressed, back to the action.

We ultimately pass on our frustrations to our kids and they witness this is how to deal with authority and not getting our way. This is a hard pill to swallow.

My son has been fortunate that he does play a lot of game time. He does have a favourite position, and in club baseball he plays it but in representative baseball he doesn’t. He wants to pitch more but he is rarely to never given that chance. That’s life and the coach will field him and bat him where the coach needs him. His disagreements mainly come from more subtle things that happen in a game; from what one coach may say in contrast to another coach on how the game is played.

The teaching I give to my son and the example I want to set is this: THE COACH IS ALWAYS RIGHT.

I asked him over the dining table one day, what benefit would it be for you or the team if you disagree or don’t respect your coach. What benefit is it to you and the team if you are moody and showing your disagreement out there on the field?

The answer was none.

Therefore, I told him, no matter who your coach is, at whatever level, the coach is always right. When it comes to how to play the game on the field, or what he needs from you, it is the coach’s prerogative and how he sees the game. I told him, I’m not ever going to butt in and say my opinion to try to change his mind.

In the big scheme of things it doesn’t matter.

But you don’t understand, my kid has a poor coach and he treats my kid unfairly. The coach doesn’t understand the game like I do. He’s got the kids in all the wrong positions – definitely my kid in the wrong position – and I don’t like the way he talks to them…

You’re right, I don’t know your coach. He may have inadequate knowledge of the game; he may have a hard time with the kids; some may be getting more game time than yours; he may not have your kid in the right position; he may have a different perspective of the game to you and probably a different perspective of your child; he may favour his kid over yours…

Not long ago I tried to help my son by encouraging him to try different angles on how to disagree with his coach. I soon realised this was not helping him.

What I was really teaching was disrespect to coaches, arrogance towards authority, and that he knows more and he should be treated differently. Here I was trying to be as diplomatic and respectful as I thought, and yet I was sending the opposite message to what I really wanted him to learn: THE COACH IS ALWAYS RIGHT.

We hate hearing this, don’t we?

I’m not advocating the coach’s approach is right, or his lifestyle and manner is right. But when it comes to the game and training and when your kids are under his wing, he is in charge and what he says goes.

The test for our kids and how ultimately they will mature into adults will be what they firstly see and hear from us. The way they respond to difficult or ‘unfair’ situations will be a reflection on what they perceive from us to how we deal with difficult and ‘unfair’ situations. This is a tough truth.

If you’re not sure how you are being perceived by your child and what principles you are passing on then take a step back and observe them. Watch how they handle situations that aren’t to their liking. The excuse that they are just kids and they’ll grow out of it won’t last long. If you are really brave and humble ask someone else’s opinion. Not someone who will placate to you. They can be found anywhere.

I look back in my life and there are many occasions that I know I’ve been a poor example to my kids. I do regret at times when I’ve allowed my frustrations and my big fat ego to rule my tongue and attitude. At times I want to say to my kids to grow up, but really, it is me who needs to grow up and be mature. It is me who needs to set a good example for them to follow.

Dad, what example should I follow? Mum, what example should I follow?

The answer is our example.

There’ll be many examples our kids will follow in life. It starts with ours at home. It’s never too late to change your perspective of how you view life. It’s never too late to refine your perspective of the baseball. And it’s never too late for our kids to be proud of the fine role models we are striving to set for them.

Enjoy the game.

Mark Maguire